Chris Withrow is a young pitcher who throws very fast. He is also another young pitcher who will need Tommy John surgery, following his diagnosis of a UCL tear. Whether or not these two facts are mutually exclusive remains clouded, at best. A recently published position paper by renowned elbow reconstruction artist Dr. James Andrews gives a rundown on multiple risk factors for injury.
Since his debut last season, Withrow has been a dependable reliever for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Last season, he threw thirty-four innings with a 2.60 ERA and struck out over eleven batters per nine innings.
This season followed along those same trends; in just over twenty-one innings, Withrow had a 2.95 ERA and 11.81 K/9. The only decidedly worrisome factor was a dramatic increase in his walk rate, jumping from 3.38 to 7.59 BB/9 from last season to the present. Otherwise, things were looking up; he had improved his groundball rate and was giving up fewer home runs.
But oh, those worrisome elbows.
So far this season, forty-three players (pitchers and position players) have gone in for Tommy John surgery (via Baseball Heat Maps). Sean Burnett of the Angels would be number forty-four, and Withrow would round out the list at an uneven yet easily divisible forty-five.
The Dodgers bullpen will take a hit, but they still have two very good relievers in Brandon League and Kenley Jansen, plus a dependable southpaw in J.P. Howell. Jamey Wright has also pitched admirably in 25.2 innings (3.16 ERA), those his peripherals (5.96 K/9, 4.56 BB/9) leave something to be desired. The rest of the bullpen, however, is comprised of former closers Brian Wilson (7.13 ERA) and Chris Perez (5.68 ERA) and a series of also-rans (at least at this point in their career) in Jose Dominguez and Paco Rodriguez.